Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.Matthew 7:24-25
The Flood of 1913 is the greatest natural disaster in the history of Ohio, the state where I live. In some parts, when water levels were at their highest point, the only way to reduce flooding was to blow up the canal locks with dynamite. In the end, the flood killed 488 people and destroyed over 20,000 homes. Floods come and go, and when they do, destruction occurs. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Unexpected storms come and flood waters rise. For those who have built a foundation of obedience to the Word of God, faith endures. But for those who have not developed patterns of obedience, life falls apart. That’s the chief lesson we learn from the Scripture cited above.
The parable of the Wise Man and the Foolish Man is the conclusion to the most famous sermon that Jesus preached (Matt. 5-7). The men are alike in that they are both hearers of the Word, but only one is a doer. Here Jesus clarifies that there are only two ways to live, and this applies to everyone. There is the authentic way of internal change wrought by the Holy Spirit, and the false way of outward conformity to religious rules and regulations. In the end, we either live by the wisdom of obedience to God’s Word, or we choose the foolish way of disobedience.
To fully appreciate this conclusion, we need a synopsis of the body of the sermon. In the introduction, Jesus describes the nature of saving faith which is the theme of the entire sermon. True religion birthed by the gospel produces poverty in spirit and grief over one’s sinfulness (Matt. 5:3-4). When we recognize our spiritual and moral bankruptcy, and humble ourselves before God to receive the King, ours “is the kingdom” (Matt. 5:3). When we mourn our sinfulness, and then turn to the merciful Savior, we “shall be comforted” by the One who bore our sins on the cross (Matt. 5:4). When we “hunger and thirst for righteousness, [we] shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6), we will peacefully rest in the righteousness of Jesus that we receive by childlike faith. Through the main body of Jesus’s sermon, Jesus calls us to live out our faith by being transformed on the inside. This is the difference between the biblical gospel and moralistic religion.
Finally, as he winds down his sermon toward a challenge, Jesus gives several examples of two ways to live. There are two gates and two roads (Matt. 7:13-14). The gate of discipleship is the one way to God, which is the narrow way of repentance and faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. This leads to the narrow walk of obedience. The wide gate of “many ways to God,” opens to the easy way of coasting downstream, so to speak, which eventually leads to eternal death and destruction. There are also two kinds of prophets and two kinds of trees. False prophets disguise themselves outwardly but are like diseased trees that produce rotten fruit, while true prophets are like healthy trees that produce good fruit that nourishes others (Matt. 7:15-23).
Obedience to God’s Word produces security and stability, like that of having one’s house built “on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). A life of disobedience is insecure and self-deceiving, like building one’s “house on the sand” which cannot stand up to violent storms (Matt. 7:26). Therefore, James exhorts us similarly as does his half-brother, Jesus. Those who have “received with meekness the implanted word” should also “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22).
- Talk to Yourself. Read Matthew 5-7. Journal your observations about the differences between true heart change and outward, moralistic religion.
- Talk to God. Write a prayer of confession to God, which also expresses your desire to be more deeply changed from the inside out.
- Talk to Others. Share your findings from the Sermon on the Mount with another believer.
*This blog post is a chapter excerpt from REMADE: Embracing Your Complete Identity in Christ, now available for pre-order.